Sunday, October 8, 2023

Today, I want to share some passing thoughts about the strikes that have hammered our industry this year. Not all of these ideas are going to be the most popular, but they've been weighing on me, and I feel they need to be said. So this might be as much for me to vent as it is for you to read.

- Yes, streaming has significantly changed our industry, and writers and actors deserve a reasonable share of the revenues based on their creative contributions. But blaming all AMPTP companies for obscuring the data that allows for successful decision-making and project greenlighting is unfair considering most studios and networks have been very open throughout their existence about releasing box office figures, program ratings, and other key metrics. In other words, pure streamers like Netflix bare most of the responsibility for obscuring transparency.

- There's something laughable about multi-millionaire actors calling multi-millionaire studio heads "greedy." Just like stars, top execs (like Bob Iger, for instance) are paid enormous sums because of the money they are able to bring in -- their leadership leads to billions of dollars in returns for shareholders, making them worth their high salaries.

- AI is a legitimate issue in the entertainment industry, but overhyped concerns about a Terminator-style coup that will destroy humanity is a page out of Hollywood's fantasy playbook. AI will have its uses if we reign it in and use common sense in its applications. It should be a resource to help humanity do things better, not a replacement for what we already do. Creative work has heart and soul and intangibles like emotional intelligence that the best AI just can't replicate (yet). Plus, courts have already ruled AI can't own intellectual copyright, so the original creator of the source material the AI is using to generate new work is still considered the author for legal purposes, as it should be. AI is not going away, so let's figure out how to use it to our advantage.

- SAG is crying that they need an 11% increase in wages to keep pace with raging inflation. Ironic though how such a rabid "progressive" organization as SAG admits no responsibility for helping create the wretched economy we're all suffering through now by their support of left-wing policies (like printing more money to fund endless spending bills) and their endorsement of Democratic politicians like Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer who have caused the inflation we're experiencing in the first place.

- Actors and writers need to make a living wage. But mandating productions hire a certain number of actors or writers for a certain number of weeks is Marxian at its core, playing on the idea that the studios are greedy capitalists who are oppressing the "working man" unless they acquiesce to untenable union demands for minimum guarantees. Of course this is nonsense. Acting and writing are skills, and like any job, only the most skilled will be hired. If too many actors or writers can't find work, perhaps it's because there are TOO MANY actors and writers. Just wanting to be an actor or writer doesn't mean others have to hire you. Studios will hire people for roles based on their needs -- which projects they want to greenlight based on things like audience and budget, and what the staffing needs of those projects are.

- It's easy for multi-millionaire actresses to post videos telling the membership to "stay strong" and "don't give in to the studios" and "keep marching" on those picket lines. Why? Because one of their residual checks is more than most of their colleagues will make in a year. And whether scale rates go up 5% or 11% won't affect a $10-million-per-picture star one iota. It's easy to virtue signal when you have no real skin in the game. But it sure makes you look like a "good guy."

- Strikes certainly have their place. But the fact that the majority of outspoken individuals, publications and organizations have demonized the same studios they count on for their business while heralding the supposedly arduous plight of the unions shows a lack of understanding of both sides of the issue and belies the notion that such people have ever run their own business before, had to make a payroll or had to show their investors a solid ROI.

- The industry is going to face some significant changes as a result of this strike, from how it measures and reports the success of streaming programs to the further consolidation of studios and platforms to the number of people a production will hire (paying significantly higher wages to writers means less writers will get hired). One thing we can all count on, though, is that the end of the strikes don't simply signal that everything has been figured out, but rather that many more changes are coming. And soon.